ben mims cookbooks

3 Standout Cookbooks by Outstanding Alumni Award Winner Ben Mims

Standing out in the cookbook market can be difficult, but Ben Mims manages to rise above thanks to his technical test-kitchen expertise and his creative culinary streak! As the Cooking Columnist for The Los Angeles Times and 2019 recipient of ICC’s Outstanding Alumni Award for Excellence in Media, Mims has been educating readers for years on cooking and baking techniques, delivering some seriously delicious recipes. Former editor at Saveur, Food & Wine, and Lucky Peach magazines, Mims’ combined experience in journalism and professional kitchens gives him a unique perspective to the cookbooks he writes. So special that in addition to the three books he’s authored himself, Mims has helped to produce several cookbooks for Dovetail Press, Vice’s Munchies and Buzzfeed’s Tasty.

Whether he’s transforming classic southern desserts, making coconut lovers rejoice, or helping to make the air fryer the new Instant Pot, his cookbooks showcase the education and training he received in ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program. If you don’t already own one of his cookbooks, consider adding one of these three to your kitchen collection!

Sweet and Southern: Classic Desserts with a Twist (Rizzoli, 2014)

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In his debut cookbook published in 2014, Mims’ reinvents classic Southern desserts, adding fun, modern twists to each recipe. Picture perfect favorites like Peach Cobbler, Key Lime Pie and Red Velvet Cake are all not to be missed, but it’s the recipes that daringly mix Southern traditions with international influences that are absolute showstoppers. Check out his Indonesian-inspired Cinnamon-Chocolate Spekkuk or Sicilian Cassata with Southern flavors for a global approach to satisfy dessert lovers.

Coconut (Short Stacks Eds, 2017)

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In this Short Stack all about the beloved tropical fruit, Mims convinces readers that coconut can be used for more than piña coladas! With recipes like Black Pepper-Coconut Dutch Baby or the “Real Deal” Coconut Shrimp, you’ll be reaching for the hard-shelled fruit whenever you want to add variation to your favorite sweet, or savory, dishes.

Air Fry Every Day: 75 Recipes to Fry, Roast, and Bake Using Your Air Fryer (Clarkson Potter, 2018)

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In Mims’ third cookbook, he tackles the must-have kitchen appliance of the year: the air fryer. With little to no oil needed, fried food emerges perfectly crisp and ready to eat. These recipes are creative, fast, and foolproof. Plus, Mims shares tips and techniques to help everyone from beginners to ambitious home cooks feel more comfortable in the kitchen. Don’t miss crowd-pleasing recipes like French Onion Potato Skins or Crispy Herbed Chickpeas!

cristina garces and anna francese gass

How To Land A Cookbook Deal: Secrets From HarperCollins

In 1796, Amelia Simmons accomplished something that had never been done in America before—she published a cookbook! Contained within its 47 pages were recipes informed by British heritage and culture. Though her cookbook was the first to be written by an American, at the time, she still had to sign a contract with a publisher to get her book on shelves.

Many years later, it’s now more difficult than ever to score a cookbook deal. Despite the challenges, our alumna Anna Francese Gass (Culinary Arts ‘12) was able to do just that, publishing her first cookbook this past May. But she didn’t just pull it off—she scored a cookbook deal with HarperCollins, one of the largest publishing houses in the world. So, how did she do it you ask? For starters, she did more than just jot down recipes, walk into publishing houses and receive contracts to print copies of her dream project. She put years of dedication into solidifying the initial pitch for Heirloom Kitchen that she eventually brought to publishers, while also building her personal brand.

So, what were the steps that Gass took to accomplish this feat? And what made HarperCollins finally draft up that longed for book deal contract? (after all, they don’t just say yes to everyone!) Here are the industry secrets we learned from Gass and HarperCollins on how to get your cookbook published.

Book Agents 101

First, think about the publishing route that you want to pursue. Do you want to self publish? (read: it can be done! Our grad, Jason Licker, self-published Lickerland: Asian-Accented Desserts and received a James Beard Award nomination for it.) This avenue is arguably the road less traveled, but certainly an option. Or, do you want to work with a book agent? These are the people that help to open doors for you at publishing houses (note: publishers are legally not allowed to take unsolicited book pitches, so a book agent is necessary for introductions).

However, agents receive manuscripts all of the time, so your pitch has to be on point and sans loose ends. Insider’s tip: think about if you know anyone who has published a cookbook—they may be able to introduce you to their agent.

Once you’ve found yourself a book agent, it’s time to start finessing your initial pitch to make it more enticing. Today’s market for cookbooks is saturated, so it’s important to make yours uniquely you. Here’s what Gass’ book agent recommended to make her overall package stronger.

1) Build An Audience

Although Gass had an Instagram audience of around 25,000 when she first started, her agent pushed her to continue to grow it. Remember: these are some of your biggest supporters who will be excited to buy your cookbook! Now, Gass has an engaged following of almost 90,000 who are interested in what she has to say.

2) Gain Experience

After graduating from ICC, Gass got a job in Food52’s test kitchen with the help of ICC’s Career Services team. From there, she went on to work as a recipe editor for Martha Stewart Living. This made Gass’ case for a deal extremely strong: she had the chops to write recipes and she had been published during her time at Food52. She continued to write for publications, making her portfolio of published articles grow, which in turn, made her a stronger candidate.

3) Be Committed

Ask yourself: are you really passionate about this project? This will turn into a second full-time job, as publishing a cookbook requries a lot of heavy lifting. Make sure that you really love what you’re creating and put your heart into it. This will jump off the pages of your pitch.

4) Think About The Timing

Like everything in life, timing is key, even with scoring a cookbook deal. Unfortunately, this isn’t something as easy to control. Sometimes, things have to work in your favor. Think about what’s happening in the news and know that relevancy may help your case.

So, Now It’s Time For A Contract

After you’ve worked with your book agent to tidy up any loose ends in your pitch (sometimes it can take years to get it right), it’s time to start meeting with publishing houses! When your pitch finally lands on the desk of an editor at a publishing house, they’ll immediately start looking for certain tells. Cristina Garces, who is an editor at HarperCollins and worked with Gass for years—from pitch to published—divulged her secrets of what she looks for in a compelling pitch.

1) Online Presence and Experience

The first thing that Garces does when reviewing a pitch is Google the person. While this may seem unfair—you’ve probably put years of hard work into your project—you need to have an audience who is interested in what you have to say.

Garces could tell that Gass had followers who were engaged, but she could also see that Gass had the skills to back up what she was offering. She had put in the work, both through her culinary school training and her resume. Garces could also see that Gass’ recipes would be well tested and edited from her experience as a test kitchen editor and writer.

2) Strong Voice and Clear Point of View

It will be clear to an editor when your project is ready to go and well thought out. While this is one of the most important aspects, you’ll also set yourself apart from the crowd by sounding like yourself—not who you think the publisher wants you to be. Stay true to your story and showcase your passion on the pages.

3) A Story That’s Uniquely Yours

Like Gass’ book agent warned, the cookbook market is crowded. It’s vital to have your own niche, and not just another cookbook about breakfast foods (yes, everyone loves breakfast foods, but what makes yours out of the ordinary?) However, it’s also essential to cast a wide net so that enough people will be interested. It’s all about finding the sweet spot between being unique and all encompassing.

heirloom kitchenOnce you’ve worked tirelessly with your book agent to land a contract at a publishing house, the real, fun work will begin! It will take years of dedication to make your dreams a reality, but it IS possiblejust ask some of our many grads who’ve done it! If you’re interested in buying a copy of Heirloom Kitchen, you can purchase one here.


Cookbook Conversation With Alumna Anna Gass & HarperCollins

On May 30th, join us for a discussion with Cristina Garces, Editor at HarperCollins Publishers, in conversation with ICC Alumna Anna Francese Gass, author of newly released cookbook Heirloom Kitchen. Gain insight into what it takes to write a cookbook, as well as what publishers are looking for and the working dynamics between an author and publisher. Learn about food styling, writing and editing recipes, and even tasting (and testing) the recipes. Plus, taste one of the final recipes in her book, “Church Festival” Spanakopita, and ask the questions you need to get your cookbook published!

Copies of Anna’s new book, Heirloom Kitchen, will be available for purchase. Anna will also be signing books after the event.


Thursday, May 30th | 3:30-5:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

Anna Francese Gass grew up in a small town on the Rhode Island shore before moving to New York City for university and an exciting new life. After a stint in the corporate world, she decided—in order to be truly happy—she needed to spend her time in the kitchen, instead of an office cubicle.

She quit her fast-paced sales job and, in 2011, enrolled in the Professional Culinary Arts program at the French Culinary Institute, now The International Culinary Center, in Lower Manhattan to follow her dream of cooking. Soon thereafter, she found her niche in test kitchens, and has worked for Whole Foods, Mad Hungry, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Food52.

After assisting on numerous successful cookbooks, she decided to write her own, Heirloom Kitchen. For this cookbook, she traveled around the country cooking with Mothers and Grandmothers, and her hope is that by transcribing these cherished recipes, they will continue to be shared and loved for generations to come.

Cookbooks and cake

Christina Tosi Is All About Cake

Christina Tosi is a pastry force to be reckoned with—the two-time James Beard Award winning pastry chef and graduate of our Professional Pastry Arts program is known for pastry confections that seemingly break all the rules! While the Milk Bar co-founder, MasterChef guest judge, and featured chef of Netflix’s Chef’s Table: Pastry juggles an already busy schedule, she has still found time to author three deliciously inspiring cookbooks—Momofuku Milk Bar, Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories, and Milk Bar: All About Cake.Christina Tosi

This month, ICC welcomed Christina back to her alma matter for a discussion about the inspiration behind her latest cookbook, Milk Bar: All About Cake, and how she’s developed as an author and pastry chef. While Christina’s built a business known for their creative cakes, growing up, she actually didn’t love cake. She found it to be boring and almost always following the same old formula, spongy bases of barely-there flavor topped with too-sweet frosting. After years of experimenting in the Milk Bar kitchen—and recently opening her 15th store—Christina has built a brand embracing the fantastic potential of cake, establishing that cake can (and should!) have personality, integrity, texture and visual appeal!

All About CakeThese four characteristics that cake should have are the basis of Christina’s ground rules for cake. In writing her third cookbook, Milk Bar: All About Cake, and developing her love for cake, she found that as long as cake had personality, integrity, texture and visual appeal, you could be on your way to making something delicious. Read below to find out what Christina shared in the discussion about her life and latest cookbook!

The cake must have a strong point of view, a flavor "story."

Every chef has a story, and Christina’s involves taking a leap to move to New York City, having only visited for a day once before. After studying to become an electrical engineer, she realized that what she really wanted was to bake cookies for the rest of her life. So, she sought to get an education to learn how to do just that!

In researching culinary schools, Christina shared that she “…wanted to go to the best culinary school, the most intense culinary school, that was going to put me into the wild, wonderful world of becoming a pastry chef, and there was only one place, and it was here (ICC).”Christina at the discussion

She then used ICC’s job board, what she calls her “greatest resource” at the time, to find internships and jobs that would allow her to work her way through the culinary industry. She was curious about every aspect of the industry and wanted to find her place in the food world, eventually working with two other ICC alumni, Wylie Dufresne and David Chang, which led her to open Milk Bar in 2008.

Every single layer must be amazingly delicious on its own.

Adjusting to life in New York City and attending pastry school came easy enough for Christina, as it does for many of our students, because she was so passionate about what she was learning in the kitchens of ICC every day.

Early on in her schooling at ICC, she realized that she would get out of the program what she put into it. She brought everything she could into the classroom and learned how to be proactive, which eventually grew her career into what it is today. For her, it was the difference between being a good cook and a great cook, and Christina shared that she learned that at ICC.

Hidden gems of texture within are key.

Cake TruffleChristina’s biggest piece of advice for those looking to open their own bakeries? Make sure you can sell a lot of what you want to bake to pay your rent! Christina shares that you have to love the uphill climb—every day can bring a new challenge, so it’s important to be able to be flexible and diversify yourself when opening your own bakery.

In the early days of Milk Bar, concerns would revolve around ordering enough butter for the holiday season, storing cookies in their original baking facility on the Lower East Side, and whether or not there was enough oven space to fulfill orders. Although these are still concerns of the business 10 years later, now conversations about quality control and hiring become more prevalent for the Milk Bar team as they expand across the continent. Christina explains that your business needs and concerns will evolve over the years, but at the end of the day, it is important to stay true to your brand.

...I won't frost the sides of the cake.

During Milk Bar’s early years, and while baking new desserts for David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants, customers would ask “what’s in cereal milk?,” and “can I get the recipe for compost cookies?”  Growing up cooking at home, Christina was raised with the practice of writing, word-for-word, recipes onto index cards.

Today, her cookbooks have become a way to memorialize the memories of Milk Bar and share how she, and her employees, overcame “…everything in the pursuit of doing what you love and bringing it to life.” The pages-long recipes of her famously unfrosted layer cakes don’t leave anything out, just how Christina lives her life.Christina Tosi Peace sign

When you read her three cookbooks, you feel like you’re a part of the Milk Bar family, just how Christina wants it to be. In sharing the ideas, flavor combinations, and passions of what motivates her team, she wants readers to see inside the unfrosted layers of a Milk Bar cakes, and go on to create something of their own that’s unique to themselves.

One last piece of advice for those looking to write their own cookbook—publishers look for someone with an audience who is interested, but most importantly, they look for individuality. Christina remarked that the world of cookbooks needs more individual flair. So, when you sit down to write the 200+ recipes for your cookbook, think about what makes you unique and make sure you have something to say.

Check out some of our favorite moments from the evening with Christina Tosi below!

Highlights From The Evening

[Recap] Jason Licker Returns to ICC to Launch First Cookbook

On Thursday, February 23, international Pastry Chef and alum Jason Licker returned to his Alma mater for a special event to launch the United States release of his first-ever cookbook, Lickerland.  Having lived abroad exploring various parts of Asia for the last decade, the culture definitely has influenced Jason’s flavor profile and approach to pastry arts. Encompassing dozens of Asian-accented desserts, the unique cookbook also includes pages that help consumers decipher the different taste experiences (including sweet, salty, sour, etc.) of each recipe.

During the 90-minute event, attendees learned more about Chef Licker through a fun-spirited Q&A with his former Pastry Chef-Instructor, Jurgen David. Additionally, everyone in the audience experienced a tasting from the cookbook. Chef Jason Licker took us through the step-by-step process of creating his White Chocolate-Junmai Sake Cream dessert with a toffee crumble. Utilizing techniques he learned in his Professional Pastry Arts many years ago, it’s easy to identify how his culinary school education has played a major influence throughout his career.

Attending the ICC was critical because in any profession, you need to crawl before you walk. With the hands-on schooling experience, I built a firm foundation of pastry knowledge.  There is nothing like learning during a hands-on job, but if you have a great education, you have an advantage. I think I would have discovered my passion for Asian cuisines no matter what because I just love food and discovering other cultures. With the culinary education I had though, it made it easier to apply those experiences abroad and translate that into my style of pastry.


Following the event that included students, faculty, family, friends and press, we asked Jason Licker about how it felt returning to his culinary school after all these years.

 It was an incredible moment of overwhelming joy to launch my first cookbook at where I first learned the foundation of pastry. It was a feeling of coming home.  Having (Pastry Chef) Jurgen David, a teacher of mine, now question me about my book was a full circle feeling. I was once a student in the audience, and now, I was demonstrating how to make one of my signature desserts. The team at the ICC made this special moment memorable.”

Watch highlights from the event below!

To purchase your copy of Lickerland, visit


French Culinary Institute  graduate and professional Pastry Chef, Jason Licker has announced the US release of his first-ever cookbook. Celebrating 56 Asian-accented desserts, each recipe is the embodiment of Jason’s journey throughout some of Asia’s most captivating culinary capitals. Lickerland collects Pastry Chef Licker’s most cherished recipes from his magical career, seamlessly balancing Asian ingredients with classic French pastry techniques and presented beautifully with images by award-winning photographer, Jason Michael Lang.

After spending the last 12 years traveling and cooking throughout Asia, Jason is heading back stateside to make the International Culinary Center the first stop on his American Lickerland tour. Currently available throughout Asia and Europe via, Jason will be commemorating the United States release at his alma mater, the International Culinary Center on Thursday, February 23, 2017 from 3:30pm-5pm ET.

You need to experience the bitter to realize how sweet things can be. This statement isn’t just about understanding your palate; it’s also about perseverance when faced with uncertainty. I never planned on becoming a chef. In fact, I had no idea what I was going to do. I may have always had a love affair with food, but it took a tragedy for me to realize it was actually my true calling. This book is about the memories I cherish that shaped who I am today. It’s about discovering flavors of the world in a journey that changed my life. I hope, in some small measure, it can help change yours. At the very least, you should be well-fed along the way.” Jason Licker, Pastry Chef

Limited signed copies will be available February 11th on or purchase on after February 23rd. A limited amount of signed copies will also be available at the event for purchase.

About the International Culinary Center®:

Founded by the late Dorothy Cann Hamilton as The French Culinary Institute in 1984, the International Culinary Center (ICC) is a global expert in professional culinary and wine education, with programs in New York and California, and graduates from more than 85 countries. The renowned six-month Total Immersion program has produced such talents as Bobby Flay, David Chang, Dan Barber, Christina Tosi and 15,000 more under the guidance of deans including Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres. Awarded the coveted “School of Excellence” by accrediting commission ACCSC for its career education, ICC provides students with the credentials, confidence and connections to chart a successful career anywhere in the world.

About Jason Licker:

Before taking his passion for pastry into a global experience, Jason Licker received his diploma in Professional Pastry Arts through the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center®) in 1999. While in culinary school, Jason earned his first internship at Union Square Café in New York City and following graduation, earned a pastry cook position at the world renowned Jean-Georges Restaurant. Moving on to his first Pastry Chef position at Metrazur for Charlie Palmer at the age of 23, Jason elevated his craft yet again with a promotion to Executive Pastry Chef for The Shore Club in Miami Beach. Overseeing all food and beverage outlets including Nobu Miami Beach, Jason fueled his new found affinity for Asian cuisine. Holding positions as Executive Pastry Chef at the Peninsula New York, The Westin Bund in Shanghai, The Venetian Macau Hotel and Resort among others, the winner of Iron Chef Thailand (Dessert) is now making his way back stateside for the release of his inaugural pastry cookbook, Lickerland.

To RSVP for the event, email with subject Lickerland.

For all press inquiries, please email


How to Write a Cookbook Series: China: The Cookbook

Free event, RSVP to

Join us for the next in our series on How to Write a Cookbook October 24th from 3:30-5:00pm in the auditorium.  Authors Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan will be here to discuss their new book China: The Cookbook. These bestselling authors from China will only be in New York for a brief time, so don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the experience of their first English cookbook; translating not only a cookbook but a cuisine for a U.S. audience, the process of writing a cookbook and working with Phaidon to develop the definitive bible covering all 8 regions of Chinese Cuisine. Books will be available for sale and signing after the event.

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